My first instinct is to throw rotten tomatoes at this episode of Merlin. The second part of the third series intro, it ramped up the action with a brilliant fight scene between Merlin and Morgana, and there was an ambitious grand-scale battle between Camelot and Cenred’s army.
But sadly, not all of it made sense. Merlin (Colin Morgan) returned to Camelot, much to Morgana’s annoyance. And despite being trussed up in magic chains in a forest full of giant scorpions, Morgana (Katie McGrath) wasn’t the slightest bit interested in how he escaped.
Merlin quickly brings Gaius (Richard Wilson) up to speed with what Morgana’s been up to, but Gaius cautions that they can’t tell Uther (Anthony Head), because he will favour Morgana in everything. That’s fair enough, but it struck me that Morgana could at any time point the finger of blame at Merlin, and Uther would have him executed. So why should Merlin and Gaius play it straight?
Anyway, trouble is afoot as Cenred’s army begin marching on Camelot, so there isn’t much time. Arthur (Bradley James) takes control because Uther’s busy gibbering in his chamber. This leads to the most unintentionally hilarious battle in the history of…um…historical battles. Highlights include:
- The attacking army using long range catapults to damage the castle while their own troops are fighting hand-to-hand at the gates of Camelot. Now, I’m no military strategist, but that seems ill-advised to me.
- Despite the flaming fireballs that were being lobbed at the citadel none of the nicely tiles roofs were damaged or caught fire. Who needs castle insurance?
- Gaius advising Arthur on military strategy. Note: Gaius is the castle physician, not the leader of the army.
- My personal favourite – Uther gets hit by an arrow in the shin. No archers were present. No soldiers were staggering around with arrows sticking out of them. No volleys of arrows were seen elsewhere. Just this one, solitary stray arrow that hit Uther in the leg. Brilliant.
And to cap off just how utterly useless Merlin really is, the Great Dragon (John Hurt) had told him at the start of the episode, “Merlin, I could not resist a Dragon Lord, even if I wanted to.” Not even if Merlin called him up in ancient Gaelic and told him to roast the invading forces? No, didn’t think so.
Still, despite how ludicrous most of the episode was, the action compensated for it pretty well. Merlin had a moment of wisdom during the episode, which was a fine foreshadowing of the wizard he’ll become. Arthur too had a moment of nobility, but by the end of the episode he’d been reset to “spoiled Prince Arthur” again. And if we must have a topless shot of Bradley James each week, then can the gentlemen viewers respectfully request one of the ladies of Camelot return the favour?
The fight scene between Merlin and Morgana was a bit of a highlight – some pretty decent swordfighting between the two, coupled with nice dialogue where Merlin tried to appeal to reason. The skeletal warriors that Morgana awoke were almost cheesy, until Merlin hacked an arm off one and the arm started to move independently. That was creepy.
What’s particularly annoying though, is that after two weeks where Camelot was genuinely in jeopardy, the teaser for next week’s episode shows a goblin kicking off comical hijinx. Fart jokes seem to be the order of the day as well as straight-laced Gaius getting possessed and doing out of character stuff. I’m sure it’ll be a hoot and no-one will mention the damage Camelot suffered. Nor will Cenred hang around, despite having taken control of the surrounding buildings around Camelot and having the power to hold the kingdom siege.
Oh Merlin, you can be so frustrating sometimes.